Trudging toward my high school classroom and the specter of a mathematics midterm I was sure to fail, I grappled with the enigmas: Why was math so hard? Why hadn’t I studied harder? Who cared about pre-calculus anyway?
I couldn’t have imagined that, in only a few years, I’d thrill to a college statistics course—I discovered a sheer love of learning. Subjects once mired in irrelevance bloomed with intellectual treasures.
Of course, formal academics, while undeniably crucial, still represent only one kind of learning. But, whether in a course of prescribed study or the daily course of life, God has shaped each one of us to be true and lifelong learners.
Poet and professor Robert Frost claimed, “I am not a teacher but an awakener.” The Father’s call to us to growth (see Ps. 1) should awaken in us a love of learning. True learning comprises the following three fundamentals:
- Learning is a choice. Learning is most effective when it’s elective, but not all “learning” edifies. Paul warned Timothy against those who are “always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7, NKJV). Real enlightenment requires real light, yet the pride that asserts, “I’ve already learned that,” quickly darkens our hearts. Genuine learning chooses to seek God’s truth in humility, knowing He will teach us whenever we are willing to learn.
- Learning is active. Learning should be something we do rather than something we get. The preacher of Ecclesiastes dearly prized wisdom but derided the puffed-up philosophy of endless books and studies as wearying to the indiscriminate student (see Eccl. 12:12). Institutional matriculation is a worthy process. But, more than simply earning a degree, a person should always aim to truly learn that degree. Collecting credits is a perfectly reasonable reality of academia, but inspired learning presses beyond acquisition of the transferable into interaction with the transformative.
- Learning is a way of life. Prov. 10:17 states, “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life” (ESV). Challenges often compound in ministry when the needs of others and our own weariness threaten to overwhelm. Yet love for godly learning invites Holy Spirit fullness into every aspect of our daily experience; even spiritual battles offer lessons en route to victories. By constantly challenging our intellect and stimulating our creativity, a love of learning imparts suppleness to our spirit and temerity to our teaching.
As a new year approaches, there’s no better time to choose the active learning lifestyle. Target new ways to learn: List books you’ll read this year; plan a weekly household reading night; take up a foreign language; or convert your commute into an audio classroom with lecture CDs from the library. Sign up for an art class or a cooking group; master that accounting software you bought; enroll in an online course; volunteer as a homework tutor; or even go back to school to complete a degree. Make learning a daily focus; challenge yourself, and have fun.
A crammed calendar may make all these seem implausible, but remember the warning of C.S. Lewis: “The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.” The truth is, God made us to be people who can’t wait to learn.
Ideas for Further Learning
Looking for an educational experience to benefit your ministry as well as your mind? Here are some facts to consider:
- Foursquare Education’s Online Leadership Community offers rotating courses designed for optimal utility, economy, and flexibility tailored to the working minister but open to all who are interested.
- Many colleges and universities (Life Pacific College among them) offer adult degree completion programs, advanced degrees online, and other methods of maximizing affordability and accessibility for working adults to learn right where they are, right away.
- A variety of public and private financial assistance options can move you toward your goal in less time than you might think. Schools have trained personnel to help you navigate the options.
Imagine how far along you could be at next year’s end simply by starting now! If God is calling you to the next step in your educational progress, don’t let the uncertainties of time, money or your background dissuade you from learning more. If you’ve got the call, He will make the way (see 1 Thess. 5:24).
By: Courtney Hall, national church education coordinator for The Foursquare Church and faculty member of Praise School of Ministry at Christian Fellowship (Praise L.A. Foursquare Church) in Los Angeles